It's half way through December and no Herbie Awards yet! It's a special Herbie year too because as of October, Herbie is now 20 years old - and still going strong. We can't let that slip by can we?
Certainly not! So despite all the tribulations and restrictions I cordially invite you all to this years glittering award ceremony. Fortunately the attendance is unlikely to cross the threshold of large gatherings for me to insist on seeing your covid passports so you can come whether you are triple jabbed or not, although I hope you are. So make sure you are well ventilated, don't sit to close to strangers and off we go.
In this strangest of years it'll be too hard to make awards in all of the categories we've used in past times (I see I've only posted 34 times this year. Compare that with 2009 when I posted 184 times!) and we've done relatively little boating, but there are a few things deserving of recognition so let's recognise them.
Let's start with an old favourite, of mine at any rate.
The Herbie Award for Best Gubbins or Gadget.
Both my regular readers will know I'm a sucker for a good gubbins - some device that makes life easier or just more fun. Sadly for these awards I have to restrict myself to things generally useful to boaters, otherwise the no brainer choice for me this year would be my Medtronic heart pacemaker - a true model of genius and a life saver to boot.
Or I could have mentioned the little ABC music player I made in March this year, (Here's a link to it.) but that's a bit niche. Actually for anybody a little bit geeky the little £3.80 Raspberry Pi Pico , a true wonder gadget that sits at the heart of it could enable a lot of things on a boat because its very good at monitoring sensors - temperature, fuel or water or pump out tank level readily spring to mind. However, enough geekery, let me recommend something for normal people.
As well as liking gadgets I also love listening to (and playing) music.
A good gadget for anyone mad like me (and Maffi) who keeps an electric guitar on board is a little headphone guitar amp like the Vox amplug so you can play without annoying your other half. Hmm, I suppose that's a bit niche too, but they are brilliant and sound great.
Back to normal people.When we're moored up at night we often like to listen to music, or perhaps an audiobook (more of which in another award post). The radio speakers on our boat aren't up to much and we wanted something with bluetooth so we could stream stuff from our phones or tablets. It needed to be portable, have good battery life, and be rugged enough to use outdoors when necessary. Most of all it had to sound a lot better than our mediocre built in radio speakers. I must admit I'm pretty fussy about good sound.
So a year or so ago I did my usual copious research, studying reviews and all that and decided on a particular speaker. I knew what I wanted, my mind was made up.. So we popped over to our nearest Richer Sounds, who are always helpful and pleasant to deal with. Yes they had the speaker I wanted, but the man said he thought another was better at a similar price. "Hmmph, well let's hear it," we said, getting out my phone to connect up and play a bit of music we know. So a cup of coffee was provided and the speaker was hooked up in their listening room and I can honestly say that within 10 seconds of it playing Kath and I both said "Wow, it's a deal". I've heard a good few small portable bluetooth speakers but this one takes the biscuit in terms of sound quality and build. What a good little gubbins this is. After having this speaker for over a year I can honestly say it has transformed the enjoyment of our evenings on the boat.
Should you wish to use it to listen to the cricket (or football if you must) or whatever as you cruise along, it's solid and powerful enough to sit safely on the hatch. Or take it home with you to use in the garden. Having a metal carcass, it is reassuringly heavy and extremely rugged, the rechargeable battery lasts for ages and the sound is amazing for something of it's size.
Here's a picture of the latest model (improved even since ours which looks identical).
To give you some idea of the size, it has a footprint about the size of a paperback book and is about four or five inches tall.
So the Herbie Award for Best Gadget goes to
The Audio Pro T3 Bluetooth speaker
The bluetooth connection is simple and very reliable. We've used our lots and lots and can't fault it. It'll set you back £119 at the moment, so it's not cheap although more expensive models in the range are available.
Oh dear, I'm beginning to sound like an 'influencer'. Sorry about that, but it is a great gadget and I have nothing to gain for saying so. If you don't believe me, just read the reviews.
In the next post we'll look at a proper specifically canal based award.